The Makings of a Successful Product Manager I
Product managers play an important and encompassing role in the software development process. Their responsibilities cover broad functions like managing teams, communicating the product visions to everyone involved (i.e. stakeholders and the development team) to the intricate stuff — feature management and prioritization, and timeline management. But regardless of the scope of the function, each represents a critical role a good product manager must possess.
Product Management is a fairly new niche in the ecosystem so it is understandable that, along with the complexities tied to the role, the supply of adept talents is relatively low as opposed to the engineering and design niches. One interesting thing you will come to find is that the role requires an in-depth understanding of a range of fields — Design, Marketing, Sales, Engineering, Operations, Legal, PR, etc. Why? Cause Product Management acts as a communication hub for the users and stakeholders involved.
The first part of this article highlights seven (7) skills that are absolutely necessary for product managers to have:
- Communication Management:
Poor communication is a common problem you’d often encounter when managing a product. The ability to communicate the vision, features and objectives of your product to your team, stakeholders and across the organisation, is a unique skill that should be possessed and improved on. This skill adopts listening, attention to detail, giving and receiving feedback, information processing and filtering, respect and friendliness, etc, to fulfil tasks successfully.
- Team Management:
Effectively managing a team requires soft skills woven around Emotional intelligence, i.e. managing emotions, being empathetic, delegating efficiently, etc. Without these skills, getting your team to work towards common goals and perform optimally will be difficult, which can prove disastrous for both your organisation and career.
A common Product Management trap is letting stakeholders choose the product priorities without guidance. It is your duty as the PM to guide the stakeholders through the prioritisation process. Ensure that you communicate the vision, goals and roadmap of the product to the development team. Prioritisation must be done in collaboration with the stakeholders (customers, development team, management) as early as possible so that alternatives can be explored in cases where there are conflicts. A successful PM works as a middleman between Developers and Stakeholders as they may often have conflicting perspectives and needs.
- Time Management:
One of the major qualities of successful Product Managers is the ability to manage time, ensuring that deadlines are met, and expectations are managed. This requires well-planned product strategies and roadmaps that will serve as a guide to the team and keep them abreast of the product’s release plans and dates.
Product managers are Product leaders. Despite the argument surrounding the roles as regards their difference(s), I believe one cannot be a successful product manager without possessing leadership skills as it requires strategic thinking and strong communication skills to see a product through execution to its launch. This means overseeing the day-to-day activities of product development.
- Research and Analytics:
Following the ideation stage of a product are research and analysis. This phase allows you to find more detailed and exclusive information about the product. Research offers a proper understanding and a broader view of the product you want to birth. As a PM, having research and analytics skills is paramount if you want to build a world-class product.
- Problem Solving:
Product Managers should always have in mind that no matter how well prepared, organised, or established your production processes are, you are still bound to run into problems; every manager does. This could be in the form of a missed deadline or milestone. It could be budgetary in nature. It could involve an unforeseen breakdown in the development chain. It is your responsibility as PM to manage situations like these and find solutions to salvage them in time. Whatever the case may be, a product manager must be a skilled problem-solver. The ability to evaluate the challenges, think critically about potential solutions, and formulate a response are essential.
These among other vital characteristics and qualities are the most common and must-have skills of anyone who wants to be a successful Product Manager.
The next article will focus on successfully navigating team management as a Product Manager.
Islamiyat Okeshola is a trained, experienced and competent Software Product Manager with programming knowledge and background, whose core values are building user-centric viable products, product thinking, product research, product strategy, and road mapping among others.